Column: So who really benefits from Tall Ships?

The Tall Ships crowd along Front Street Sunday afternoon. (Credit: Vera Chinese)
The Tall Ships crowd along Front Street Sunday afternoon. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

A colleague asked me a question this week that I’ve heard quite often in recent months: Who exactly benefits from Tall Ships?

I can understand why someone who did not attend the festival might ask that question. But for anyone who stepped foot on one of the ships, or danced to one of the songs performed on the event’s two live music stages, or took a bite out of the delicious food served in the streets of Greenport during the four-day festival, it’s something you wouldn’t need to ask. 

The reality is that Tall Ships benefits anyone interested in having a good time. For folks whose top priority is avoiding traffic at all costs, or anyone with an acute allergy to residents of western Suffolk or Nassau counties, the decision to remain inside this weekend was probably a good one.

The Village of Greenport is a special place that should be shared with the rest of the world. To host events that showcase both its beauty and its maritime history is something the community should embrace. And most people did.

I marveled at just how many local people our newspaper spoke with this week who delighted in the festival, despite the protests of a vocal minority.

The Greenport Business Improvement District and the village should be applauded for bringing so many people to the community without any major incidents. The event was well-planned, with vendors nicely spread out and Front and Main streets filled without ever feeling too crowded. We even spoke with some folks from Long Island this week who had never been to Greenport who said they will return. It was a victory for most local businesses this weekend and beyond (and that business reach extends far beyond Greenport, with folks spending the night at hotels in Riverhead, having lunch on Love Lane and going for wine tastings everywhere in between).

I remember as a kid growing up in Ridge what a great treat it was whenever my family would make the 45-minute trip out to Greenport. My father, being a second-generation Navy veteran, always felt a connection to seaport communities. He reminded me this week of one time we toured the HMS Bounty as a family.

I decided to recreate the magic a bit with my own family this weekend. My wife, Vera, and I brought our 18-month-old son, Jackson, aboard the ships. And while it’s tough to tell what exactly a child so young got out of the experience — he uses most of his limited vocabulary to ask for more cheese — he clearly enjoyed himself. He ran his hand along the details onboard the deck of the Kalmar Nyckel, spotting plenty of places he’d like to hide crackers and car keys along the way. He then helped a crew member turn the ship’s wheel, something he would have repeated for hours, if allowed.

Ever since that day, he seems to have a new favorite word — “ship” — though he pronounces it more like another four-letter word, so this might actually be a problem.

After we toured the ships, we grabbed a drink from Lucharitos and drank it in Mitchell Park. And, of course, we later shared a pint from Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. We also sampled the new Noah’s on a Roll and American Beech restaurants, while checking out the other vendors along Front and Main.

Work brought us back out to the festival throughout the week, but to have that opportunity to relax in the village and spend a full day like any other visitor gave me an even greater appreciation for the event and the community.

As the North Fork grows in popularity, these types of events are going to become more common in this region of natural beauty, waterfront vistas and open spaces. In less than a month, Martha Clara will host a two-day music festival at its vineyard property that is expected to attract 10,000 visitors a day. That, too, is sure to bring its share of minor inconveniences and temporary headaches. It’s also another way to boost the tourism economy that will continue to help make the North Fork the very best place on Long Island.

Next time I’m asked who benefits from these types of events, I suppose my answer should be something along the line of anyone who likes ships, music, food, wine, community, family … anyone who likes to live life, really.

TR1226_Staff_Parpan_C.jpgThe author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 631-354-8046.